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In the event the president-elect of the US is sincere in his vow to be a president for all and bring the nation together, Donald Trump is hardly going about it in the right way. Despite deep misgivings, I was all for giving the new guy a chance. After all, on the foreign policy front President Barack Obama failed to live up to early expectations, with few exceptions, as a glance at his woeful legacy will show — dangerous US-Russia escalation, Ukraine sheared off Crimea, half a million Syrians killed on his watch, Palestinians worse off than ever, Libyans impoverished and Iran’s mullahs chuckling all the way to the bank.

Ultimately, words are one thing, actions quite another. But Trump’s confirmed high-level appointments indicate his leanings towards the hawkish right, which doesn’t bode well for America’s minorities, especially Muslims and Mexicans, many of whom are anxious if not scared of what the future may hold. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who defended the billionaire reality TV host throughout his campaign like a mother hen protecting her chick, doesn’t get his coveted post as Attorney General — that went to Senator Jeff Sessions — but could still be appointed Secretary of State. During the early post-9/11 period, Giuliani rejected $10 million (Dh36.7 million) disaster relief from Saudi Prince Al Waleed Bin Talal and earlier this year pointed a finger at the kingdom for being involved in the attacks.

The relatively benign former governor and businessman Mitt Romney is another possible contender and so is the darling of the neoconservatives, former US ambassador to the UN, John Bolton, who told Trump’s favoured news outlet Breitbart that the “only long term solution for Iran” is “regime change”, which translated means he’s beating war drums.

Sessions has little respect for civil liberties and advocated a wall isolating the US from Mexico even before it was a twinkle in Trump’s eye. He views immigration as a threat to national security, champions expanded surveillance programmes and has voted against the use of torture. “He was rejected for a district judgeship for alleged racist remarks, supports civil forfeiture and nonviolent drug prosecutions, writes Jamiles Lartey in the Guardian.

Tipped to head the CIA is another fan of torture, Republican Rep. Mike Pompeo. He railed against Obama’s intended closure of “a gold mine of intelligence” Guantanamo Bay and has championed those who carried out torture techniques, such as waterboarding, as ‘patriots’ operating within the law. In fact, very little credible intelligence was gleaned from Guantanamo’s inmates, mostly detained for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. They’ve put on weight was Pompeo’s comment on the condition of detainees following a visit.

A man known not to pull punches, he verbally savaged Hillary Clinton during her testimony to Congress on Benghazi, which, admittedly, was lacking in transparency, and has accused National Security Agency whistle-blower Edward Snowden of being a traitor deserving of the death penalty.

Position on Iran

Moreover, he’s alleged that Obama has signed covert “side deals” with Iran relating to nuclear inspections which may well be the case since the nuclear watchdog the International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed that some aspects of the deal would remain private. The “Ayatollah Khamenei watches America allow Iran to expand its power while our President writes him missives ensuring we will protect Iran’s interests,” he claimed, adding, “This is dangerous”. On that point, he will enjoy common cause with his country’s closest Middle East allies.

In response to the 2013 Boston bombings, he slammed American-Muslim community leaders for not speaking out. “Instead of responding, silence has made these Islamic leaders across America potentially complicit in these acts and more importantly still, in those that may well follow,” he said.

Trump’s pick for national security adviser is Michael Flynn, a retired lieutenant general, tasked with combating extremist militants in Iraq and Afghanistan. This former director of the Defence Intelligence Agency was sacked because of his stand against “radical Islamism” (his words) in 2014 been dubbed “a Muslim-baiter” who once tweeted “I dare Arab and Persian world ‘leaders’ to step up to the plate and declare their Islamic ideology sick and must be healed”.

So far, the lineup’s not looking good, folks! It’s no big surprise that the president-elect is selecting cheerleading, loyal uber-conservatives but when the designated vice-president Mike Pence tells ABC News that his role model is George W. Bush’s vice-president Dick Cheney, the main driver behind the invasion of Iraq, one could be forgiven for seeing trouble ahead. And to cap it all, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is gloating in anticipation that the US embassy in Israel will be relocated to Occupied Jerusalem.

Just when I was beginning to believe things couldn’t get any worse, for the Middle East region they just did.

 


Linda S. Heard is a specialist writer on Middle East affairs. She can be contacted at lheard@gulfnews.com